John Pizzarelli at the Opening Night of the Newport Jazz Festival - August 11, 2006
Jane Monheit opened the evening with the following set:
September in the Rain
In the Still of the Night
Why Can't You Behave
(What's It All About) Alfie
Cheek to Cheek
Over the Rainbow
Waters of March
After a brief intermission, John began his much longer portion of the show with the quartet augmented by a big band including Bucky Pizzarelli providing rhythm guitar.
The Way You Look Tonight
You Make Me Feel So Young
How About You
They Can't Take That Away From Me
Nice 'n' Easy
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
Body and Soul
If I Had You
I Get a Kick Out of You
One For My Baby
I've Got the World on a String
Yes Sir, That's My Baby
Right off the bat, there was interesting personal Pizzarelli connection for me. The MC for the evening was Ron Della Chiesa who has been a fixture on the New England jazz scene for decades. He used to host a great show on Boston's public radio affiliate (WGBH) called Music America which was on five hours per day, five days a week. It was on that show, quite a few years ago, that I first heard one of John's early recordings and I was immediately hooked.
A few thoughts on the performance: There's nothing like the sound of a good big band playing top notch arrangements. From the interesting harmonies and rhythms on You Make Me Feel So Young to the brassy trumpet counterpoint to the sax melody on They Can't Take That Away From Me to the swinging entry of the horns (after John's version of Sinatra's classic opening) on I Get a Kick Out of You, it was clear that the band was really in the groove all night. Combine this with John's stellar vocals and well placed solos blending into these arrangements and you have a performance of wonderful music that's both entertaining and artistically satisfying at the same time.
Also, I would be remiss if I forget to mention Bucky Pizzarelli's yeoman work on rhythm guitar. From beginning to end, his chords complimented the arrangements with force and sureness. Add Martin Pizzarelli and Tony Tedesco's stellar work to this, and the band certainly had a powerful rhythmic foundation all evening. Bucky was also featured on Body and Soul. His beautiful harmonies and solo section on this piece resulted in a standing ovation, which included enthusiastic applause from Prince Albert of Monaco (who was sitting about 20 feet to my left).
Larry Fuller got a nice feature on One for My Baby, providing solo accompaniment for John's vocals. At a few points in the evening, the fringes of the audience in the court seats would get a bit chatty and noisy. However, during this song the audience was dead silent, hanging on John's poignant delivery of Mercer's timeless lyrics.
Of course, no evening in Newport would be complete without John's rendition of Rhode Island. It was a real crowd pleaser. Every time the lyric "you come from Rhode Island" came up, there would be a number of whoops and cheers from the audience. The crowd's enthusiastic sing-along in the latter section of this tune was also fun.
It was such a great night of music that I could go on and on, but I'll stop here and hope that I was able to provide a little bit of the flavor of one of the best concerts I've seen in quite some time.
John Pizzarelli Quartet with Special Guest Bucky Pizzarelli at the Tilden Arts Center - August 5, 2006
I was fortunate to catch the John Pizzarelli Quartet with special guest Bucky Pizzarelli at the Tilden Arts Center in Barnstable, MA last night. I can't think of many better places to spend a summer evening than old Cape Cod, particularly when you're enjoying a night of perfectly executed music from the great American songbook.
Rick Haydon and John Pizzarelli - Just Friends (Mel Bay Records, 2006)
The CD includes a number of effective interpretations of both familiar and slightly more obscure tunes. The contrapuntal opening lines of "Chasiní the Blues", the imaginative harmonies on "Look for the Silver Lining" and "Old Folks", the joyful exuberance of "Samba de Orefeu" and the dislocated opening rhythms with stellar solos on "Perdido" are only a few of the gems that punctuate this recording.
Above all, the guitarists display a high level of technical proficiency throughout the program with tremendously fluid solos and harmonies that complement each playerís strengths. That these strong players can pull this off without getting in each otherís way clearly demonstrates two skilled individuals thinking as one. With Martin Pizzarelli and Tony Tedesco providing the rhythmic anchor, the recording contains a solid underlying foundation.
"Just Friends" finds four great musicians at their peak not merely recording a CD, but having a lot of fun saluting the giants of jazz guitar in their own original and swinging way.
John Pizzarelli Quartet with The Waterbury Symphony and Special Guest Jessica Molaskey - May 22, 2005
I recently caught the John Pizzarelli Quartet (and Jessica Molaskey) with the Waterbury Symphony. It was a long ride down from (and back to) Massachusetts in almost constant pouring rain, but it was VERY well worth it.
The John Pizzarelli Trio at Scullers - January 25, 2002
Friday night at Scullers marked another successful appearance by the John Pizzarelli Trio. The group has become one of this venerable jazz club's most popular and well-received acts with a sold out room for each set being the norm. Having played together now for nearly a decade, the Trio's tightly knit ensemble work has become par for the course and the audience expressed its appreciation for the musical talent displayed on stage multiple times throughout the night.
The John Pizzarelli Trio at Scullers - November 30, 2001
The night featured a liberal dose of well-chosen standards from the Great American Songbook. An up-tempo Three Little Words, a familiar tune from Pizzarelli's repertoire, was the opening song followed by Benny Carter's slow, swinging When Lights are Low which provided a perfect change of tempo. I Got Rhythm was then performed at the speed of a runaway horse with a blistering unison guitar, scat vocal solo provided by Pizzarelli over a driving bass line from brother Martin Pizzarelli. The technical ability demonstrated was clearly appreciated by the crowd, which let out a spontaneous roar at the end of the solo. A snippet of Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning" led to the final chorus and finish accentuated by a cheering audience.
The night continued with two more Gershwin songs. Our Love is Here to Stay, the title song of an earlier Pizzarelli CD, was delivered with an effective piano counter-melody of Li'l Darlin' while They Can't Take that Away From Me featured a nice, chord based solo by the guitarist. The next selection, titled Oscar Night was a vehicle for the talents of the Trio's gifted pianist, Ray Kennedy who also composed the piece. Written as a tribute to Oscar Peterson, it featured an extended piano solo segment in which Kennedy displayed amazing skill and dexterity as he executed a series of rapid, flowing scales that left the audience clearly in awe of his talents.
The old ballad These Foolish Things brought a hush over the room as Pizzarelli provided a sincere delivery of the beautiful lyric. Pizzarelli's interpretation of ballads has become one of the real strengths of his shows. The emotional, respectful interpretations the Trio deliver on these timeless works is worth the price of admission alone.
A set by the Trio would not be complete without a tip of the hat to John's main influence, the great Nat 'King' Cole. Cole's familiar It's Only a Paper Moon featured a literal lesson in the use of the seven string guitar with a solo that brought the full range of the instrument and the player's talents front and center. Dave Frishberg's Our Love Rolls On was followed by The Wonder of it All, the wildly successful theme of the Foxwoods Casino television commercial, familiar to nearly everyone living in the Northeast. The song has such an infectious quality that members of the audience found themselves reflexively singing along with Pizzarelli.
I Like Jersey Best, a favorite among the many fans of the Pizzarelli Trio, featured John's hilarious impressions of numerous pop and jazz singers including Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Lou Rawls and an amazing Billie Holiday. The witty lyric only added to everyone's overall enjoyment of the tune.
While this might logically mark the end of a full set, the audience clearly wanted more. Pizzarelli obliged with his own composition Baby Just Come Home to Me and Fools Fall in Love to close a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining set. This high-energy performance with a top-notch display of musicianship clearly left the crowd thoroughly satisfied.
The John Pizzarelli Trio at Scullers - October 26, 2000
The trio opened the set with the Bing Crosby-Harry Barris composition, From Monday On, an up tempo warm-up for things to come. That began a string of tunes from John's most recent Telarc recording, Kisses in the Rain. When I Take My Sugar To Tea followed, featuring a nice, intricately harmonized solo by John. The familiar Gershwin standard I Got Rhythm was played at a breakneck tempo with Pizzarelli's guitar solo doubled by scat vocal that brought a roar from the crowd upon its completion. Ray Kennedy followed with a similarly dexterous solo. In introducing I'm in the Mood For Love, John jokingly noted that it had been in his repertoire since a popular New York Magazine labeled his vocals a cross between Chet Baker and Alfalfa. The arrangement featured quotations from James Moody's famous improvisation on the melody and John's solo included a subtle reference to Percy Grainger's "Country Gardens". And his vocals, in contrast to the New Yorker review, had the audience captivated.
The first original composition (composed by John and his wife Jessica Molaskey) of the night was I Wouldn't Trade You, also from Kisses in the Rain. The playful melody and clever lyric delighted the audience. Ray Kennedy took center stage on his original composition, Oscar Night, a tribute to that giant of jazz piano, Oscar Peterson. In the trio's hands, the tune effectively captured the feel of the old Oscar Peterson-Ray Brown-Herb Ellis trio recordings.
The next two songs in the set provided a preview of Pizzarelli's upcoming CD, Let There Be Love. The Irving Berlin standard I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket was followed by What is There to Say. The latter demonstrated Pizzarelli's particularly notable ability to generate a strongly emotional, sincere feeling to his vocal performances on ballads. A tip of the hat to Nat Cole followed with Straighten Up and Fly Right. This performance featured a humorous interplay between Pizzarelli and Kennedy as they effortlessly lobbed solo lines back and forth including quotes from such tunes as "Tea For Two", "Mona Lisa" and "Smoke on the Water", which brought a few chuckles from the audience.
Fascinatin' Rhythm followed and was a prime vehicle for the trio to demonstrate their superb technical ability and complete compatibility as a group. The Joe Mooney composition Have Another One, Not Me was introduced by Pizzarelli as a "Saloon Song" in the style of Frank Sinatra. And it did succeed in capturing that feeling completely. As the set moved toward the finish, the trio performed the Foxwood's Theme, The Wonder of it All. This is the tune John performs on a television commercial for Foxwood's Casino which is frequently aired in the northeast United States. It was certainly very recognizable to the New Englanders in the audience. The trio ended the show with John's composition, Baby Just Come Home to Me.
The set was very well received and the enthusiastic response by all in attendance as well as the sizable throng waiting to meet Pizzarelli after the show clearly indicated that the music was, not only artistically satisfying, but genuinely pleasing to both jazz purists and more casual listeners alike. The high level of musicianship displayed by John Pizzarelli, Ray Kennedy and Martin Pizzarelli continues to satisfy all who are fortunate enough to catch their performances, including those in attendance tonight at Scullers.
Kisses In The Rain (Telarc, 2000)
The instrumentation of the CD is almost exclusively the drumless trio that has become so closely identified with Pizzarelli. John notes that his desire was to capture the sound and sponteneity of a live performance and he is farily successful in that attempt.
As a warm up, the recording opens with From Monday On, a Bing Crosby-Harry Barris tune the the the Pizzarelli Trio performs uptempo and swinging.
When I Take My Sugar to Tea features an improvisational interplay between Pizzarelli and Kennedy with the latter sprinkling his efforts with "Shearingesque" block chords.
Pizzarelli jokingly notes that I'm in the Mood for Love has been in his book "ever since a popular New York magazine described my singing as a cross between Chet Baker and Alfalfa." This old ballad gets a strong performance by the trio, highlighted by musical quotations of James Moody's immortal improvisation on the melody.
I Can't Get Up the Nerve is a bluesy ballad that works well in the trio's hands.
The familiar Gershwin classic I Got Rhythm is played at a very quick tempo, giving Pizzarelli a prime chance to show off his impressive technical ability on the guitar. At the same time, he doubles his solo with a unison scat vocal.
The slow, swinging Benny Carter tune When Lights are Low is given a gentle, but cool treatment.
Johnny Mercer is clearly one of Pizzarelli's main influences. As a result, it is only natural that one of Mercer's many hits I Thought About You would be included. This piece is performed with vocal and solo guitar only. Pizzarelli's increasing vocal mastery of ballads, combined with his own skilled accompaniment on guitar make this one of the CD's highlights.
Arthur Freed's Should I? is performed uptempo, providing another vehicle for strong Pizzarelli, Kennedy solos over the driving bass of Martin Pizzarelli.
Don't Be That Way demonstrates the trio's mastery of familiar swing band tunes. One can almost imagine any one of these three in a Benny Goodman band.
I Could Have Told You So is marked by another gentle, well balanced vocal effort by Pizzarelli who gives Jimmy Van Heusen's work a dignified treatment.
The title cut Kisses in the Rain is an original composition by Pizzarelli. It's an appealing, torch song that one could imagine in the songbook of Frank Sinatra.
Oscar Night is a Ray Kennedy composition that pays tribute to one of his main influences, the great Oscar Peterson. Listening to this tune brings back memories of the Peterson drumless trios with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis/Joe Pass.
Pizzarelli continues his tradition of picking top notch material with Polka Dots and Moonbeams, the beautiful Jimmy Van Heusen-Johnny burke ballad. The timeless lyrics are given a smooth delivery. Imagintive harmonization by the trio punctuates the instrumentation.
Baby Come Home To Me is the second Pizzarelli original on the CD. Along with his other originals, it demonstrates his ability to produce new songs that capture the feel of standards from the Great American Songbook.
The final two cuts on the recording are compositions by Pizzarelli and his wife Jessica Molaskey. A Lifetime or Two is a warm ballad while I Wouldn't Trade You is a playful, cleverly worded tune that makes reference to a number of New York hot spots and trademarks.
In all, Kisses in the Rain is another appealing effort from John Pizzarelli. It's high level of musicianship, live performance feel and quality of material will satisfy regular fans of the guitarist as well as jazz lovers in general.
Brazil (Concord, 2000)
John Pizzarelli's latest effort is a collaboration with Rosemary Clooney. The pair take a journey to Brazil with an apprpriate emphasis on the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Accompanied by varied instrumentation, from solo guitar to rhythm section and horns, Clooney and Pizzarelli turn in a solid effort.
The opening cut is an extended version of Brazil. It begins with Clooney singing a slow verse followed by a medium tempo bossa nova. This gives way to a faster tempo that evolves into a swing guitar solo by Pizzarelli before finishing again at a slow beat. A very interesting arrangement indeed.
Corcovado is one of several selections that allows Clooney to display her natural proclivity for the gentle rhythms of the bossa nova with Pizzarelli supplying the subtle harmonic accompaniment on guitar. An addition of flutes in the background provides the final touch. The Boy From Ipanema finds Clooney performing with Diana Krall, their styles both contrasting and complimenting one another. Krall also provides a well executed piano solo.
Pizzarelli provides the vocals and guitar for Jobim's well known Wave. His effort is backed by a three piece horn section with a nice sax solo in the middle.
Clooney again takes center stage with an enchanting vocal on Jobim's Once I Loved. She follows this with Desefinado, an uptempo vocal duet with Pizzarelli who also provides a solo on guitar.
Oscar Castro-Neves steps in to provide the guitar accompaniment to Clooney on the old standard I Concentrate on You. This arrangement reminds one of Frank Sinatra's recording of this Cole Porter tunes on his now classic collaboration with Jobim.
John Pizzarelli returns to provide guitar and vocals with Clooney in a clever arrangement of One Note Samba. The piece is marked by interwoven harmonic lines sung by both vocalists, punctuated by another strong Pizzarelli guitar solo.
One of the highlights of this CD is Clooney's exquisite treatment of How Insensative. Here, Clooney is backed by solo guitar only and the blend between her vocals and Pizzarelli's deft harmonic accompaniment is nothing short of breathtaking.
Let Go finds Clooney and Pizzarelli delving into a more modern piece, perhaps not as pleasing melodically as the Jobim selections, but nonetheless expressive and original.
John Pizzarelli provides the vocals and instrumental arrangement for Dindi, one of Jobim's most beautiful melodies. Here, Pizzarelli displays one of his real strenghts as a vocalist, that being his ability to phrase a ballad perfectly so that he provides a sincere, almost emotional yet subtle delivery.
A relatively complex arrangement of Waters of March gives way to another Clooney vocal centerpiece on Jobim's Meditation.
Sweet Happy Life is a showcase for the band and they turn in an exuberant performance of this uptempo tune. Nino Tempo throws in a tenor sax solo followed by a Chauncey Welsch trombone improvisation. Pizzarelli jumps in with a guitar solo doubled by scat vocal. Throughout, Jeff Hamilton and Paulinha da Costa drive the piece with complex percussion and rhythms.
Clooney takes over again with vocals on A Day in the Life of a Fool before finishing with a reprise of Brazil.
All in all, this recording is highly recommended. Clooney and Pizzarelli are clearly at home in this setting and their love of the music shows. Clooney still provides strong vocal interpretations of whatever material she selects. John Pizzarelli's guitar work on this recording makes one feel he's played the bossa nova all his life. He also turns in another strong vocal effort and is particularly impressive on his interpretations of the ballads. No fans of Clooney, Pizzarelli or the bossa nova should pass up this recording.
|All Original Material, Copyright © John Pizzarelli Fan Page.|